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3 Secret Tips To Qualifying An Offshore Plastic Mold Maker

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By Author: Jade Group International
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It has become a spreadsheet world, where ticking boxes to qualify suppliers has given us a false sense of security, we tell ourselves that the piece of paper is true because the person filling it out has signed it as being true. This approach can work well in the West as suppliers are generally honest and won’t say false things on forms. In part because they know there can be a lot of repercussions to their reputation and existing business relationships if they lie.

But, when trying to qualify an offshore plastic mold maker in China, things are different.
You need to understand how an average China boss (Laoban) thinks. The average Laoban does not reinvest heavily in their factory. They keep as little cash in as possible and if the economy goes bad or they lose customers because of quality or if 100 other things goes wrong, they shut the doors and walk away. They don’t lose big because they have been continually pulling a lot money out of the operation. While there are a number of forward-thinking manufacturers in China who are looking to expand to meet customers’ needs by investing in their business like the West does, they are far outnumbered by manufacturers lead by an average Laoban. Many of which believe make money today, don’t worry about tomorrow…all short-term thinking.

So with that in mind here are 3 key areas often found on a spreadsheet audit which can also be faked or overlooked during a factory physical audit:

1. ISO Certifications – There are so many China factories that have ISO 9001 accreditations. But do they really have it, did they really get properly audited or did they just pay for it? If accreditations are important to you don’t just tick the box. Use your eyes during factory tours and judge for yourself if you feel this factory really has a quality management system that could i) achieve accreditation and ii) positively benefit your project because of the accreditation.

Any plastic mold maker in China can buy their way into any ISO style certification. At the end of the day it is cheaper to buy your way in so that their customer can “tick a box” on an audit form instead of the factory having to implementing robust Western style management systems throughout the factory.

There are also good manufacturers that don’t have ISO accreditations, be open to working with them. Be open to accepting the facts on the ground over a piece of paper. The spirit of ISO certification programs is what is truly important. That being a manufacturer wants to improve themselves and commits to changing how they manufacture in order to reach a higher manufacturing and quality standard that is international recognized. ISO in China has become a tick box issue that almost never lives up to expectations.

2. Imported Equipment – Imported high dollar value equipment is an example of a “tick box” item that many audit forms include, HAAS 5-axis CNC is an example that a spreadsheet audit may look for. Many China suppliers have high dollar value equipment but not all use it, a lot of the equipment is for show, specifically there so that the factory can tick a box on an audit form.

Here is how that works. As a factory owner you know that you need X piece of equipment to pass audits. Go buy something old (cheap) that barely works or doesn’t work at all. Clean it up. Put it on the shop floor. Put it in your equipment inventory list. Bingo, you pass the factory audit. But you don’t in fact use the piece of equipment and instead you outsource jobs to other factories as needed to make up for not truly having a working solution in your factory. When you visit a plastic mold maker that is not the nicest factory, but they have high value specialty equipment on the shop floor, look closely.

3. Material Certs – This is another area that you need to look at closely. There is a massive secondary materials market in China full of fake materials. Fake resins, fake steel, fake whatever a factory wants, and all this fake material can come with correct material certs, the factory just pays for it. What you are looking to find is a plastic mold maker who deals directly with authorized dealers in China for steel, resins, and other materials or components. If you don’t qualify materials and material sources properly you will 100% get played.

Why do China suppliers take this risk? Because they are often thinking about today and not tomorrow, plus many customers never check beyond ticking a box so there is no risk to the China supplier. Take steel for example. There are many instances when an exact steel match is needed to meet any given injection mold builds exacting specification. But there are many more instances when a substitute material may meet the project needs and the exact engineered steel, as specified, is surplus to project requirements, at least in the short term. A fake substitute steel from a supplier can often work for a period of time that get’s the mold passed, shipped, and far enough removed from the China supplier until problems arise at your factory. By that time the China factory doesn’t care. The China Laoban knows you are not checking carefully, and they are not that concerned with repeat business. Think of it this way, if they get away with it 2 out of 3 times they’re doing pretty good. You get what you inspect, not what you expect. So inspect well.

When you find a plastic mold maker in China who ticks all the boxes and offers unrealistic pricing you need to ask why, and you need to verify closely because they are often faking it. Even if their pricing is not fantastic still ask the questions, don’t let a spreadsheet substitute for your judgement.

Outside of the 3 examples above there are many ways a typical China supplier will game your audit system. Why? Because they know you are not checking that closely, because geography helps them to play the game, because they know that we live in a spreadsheet world where a ticked box answer will often rule supreme.

More About the Author

Jade Group International (Jade Molds), focuses on delivering Western quality injection molds (tooling) at China level pricing so that Western injection molders can compete with and win injection mold production jobs over their China competitors. How? Western methodology and efficiencies which starts with Western engineers using first-in-class tools like DFMPro and Moldex3D to fully qualify each part and mold design before projects are passed over to Western engineers and mold builders living in China. Our hands-on approach in Jade's Western owned China factory includes Westerners building molds, Westerners who QC molds, and Westerners who trial each mold. JadeMolds.com 100% goal is to deliver great molds that will run well and at speed in your factory back home, right out of the shipping crate. All at China level pricing. Plus, native English, Spanish, Portuguese, or Chinese communication with Jade at every stage of your project. Try the Jade way today – info@jademolds.com

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